Tony Millard likes his Saturday racing, particularly when it falls in late September.
The South African handler bagged a treble at the corresponding fixture last year; he opened his season’s tally with a brace during this month in 2017; and on Saturday he walked off with a double, thanks to Fun Times’ rolling win in race three and Meridian Genius’ thrilling battle to nail the afternoon’s second contest.
The latter win, in the Class 4 Kam Tin Handicap (1000m), pitted Hong Kong’s “big two” riders Joao Moreira and Zac Purton head-to-head in a pulsating drive to the line. The rivals came together at the 200m mark: Victory Power (126lb) and Purton leaning away from the outside rail, Moreira and Meridian Genius (131lb) edging from their inner.
Meridian Genius nicked it by a nose for his first win at start seven. Victory Power, the 2.8 favourite and now with 18 runs behind him, still awaits his breakthrough win. The victor was having his first start since June.
“I hadn't pushed him and he showed me enough at home to be able to bring him to the track without barrier trialling him, so one would hope there would be that kind of improvement going forward,” Millard said of the four-year-old, grey.
The South African landed three doubles and two trebles last season and completed his first multiple haul of this term when Fun Times (118lb) followed up under Karis Teetan in the next race, section two of the Class 4 Lam Tei Handicap (1400m).
“He was travelling nicely,” Millard said. “He’s another one that we didn't give too much pressure coming into the season, we just let him come along on his own. He’s developed but he has to improve again, he didn't show us a great deal last season but it’s a new season and a whole new start.”
The five-year-old advanced from midfield to collar long-time leader Relentless Me (126lb) and press on for a length and a quarter success. That was the five-year-old’s first win at the 11th attempt.
“He’s a Savabeel and they take a bit of time but the owner has been very patient and supportive, he’s been with me for a while, so it’s very good to have a winner for them,” Millard said.
“I think he’s pretty limited, he’s a 1400-metre horse. Those Savabeel’s look to me to be 1400-milers in Hong Kong – they go further overseas but in Hong Kong, the good ones, they seem to be better over sprint distances – Richard Gibson has that good sprinter Rattan – but frankly speaking that’s the best distance here, most races are over 1200 and 1400 metres.”
Teetan, meanwhile, starred with a five-timer on the 10-race card. His haul included victory in the feature, the Class 2 Pok Oi Centenary Cup Handicap (1600m) on the Frankie Lor-trained King Opie.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 25 September.
Tony Millard, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club